Rural Philippines Clothes Washing

I posted an article about water use (and water saving tips), and about Filipinos — as well as Filipino-Americans using a “tabo” for the weekly WordPress Earth-Friendly challenge.


Photo via Mom Bloggers For Social Good

The website Mom Bloggers For Social Good recently posted photos and an article about Women and Water in the Philippines

You can see a tabo on the photo above in a community area for washing clothes.  Click on the photo or here to read about water and sanitation projects happening in rural areas in the Philippines.

There are also photos of women washing clothes at a Philippine river for my post on the Weekly Photo Challenge theme, Humanity (Liberated from Laundy?).

Laundry day 2a web

Laundry day 1 web

It is great to see development projects focused on improving conditions for women, especially water projects — and I take comfort in my belief that dedicated people are working to alleviate the causes poverty and inequality in our world.

Especially because my Philippine laundry photos — in our modern times — should be MUCH different from the one below, taken over 100 years ago…

clothes washing old Philippines

Photo circa around 1890s from the book “The Philippine Islands”.

PRI Article: Catholic leaders battle against birth control in the Philippines

Related to my post yesterday about Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines, and on the pope’s comment that  “Catholics should not be like rabbits”, here is a report from PRI: Catholic leaders battle against free birth control in the Philippines

Video accompanying the article…


…Half of all pregnancies in the predominantly Catholic Philippines are unintended, according to a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute, a US-based think tank that promotes reproductive health.

Of those unintended pregnancies, 90 percent are due to a lack of modern methods of contraception. Unlike in some other developing nations, the Philippines’ government has not provided free contraception.

…The lack of free contraception has taken a toll on maternal health, according to experts.

The Philippines isn’t on track to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal deaths from 162 per 100,000 in 2006 to just 52 deaths per 100,000 women by this year.

The UN Population Fund’s director for the Philippines, Klaus Beck, is hopeful the new law will change things.

And here is the UN MDG (Millennium Development Goals) Analysis for the Philippines, referenced by this report:

UN MDG Goals Analysis Philippines

UN Millennium Development Goals Analysis for the Philippines. Click on the chart for full details.

Want more information about the UN’s Millennium Development Goals for 2015?  See my post about the promise of 189 nations to free people from extreme poverty here.

What are your thoughts and opinion about this?  I’d like to know…

Why Pope Francis went to the Philippines

Pope Francis’ 4-day visit to the Philippines last week prompted questions from my (not Filipino) friends like…”so why did the pope visit your home country?  Why not other, more populous nations in the region — like Indonesia, or Pakistan or Bangladesh?”

Photo from the Vatican website

Photo from the Vatican website

My friends are right in that the Philippines is not the most populous country in Asia and even in Southeast Asia.  What they didn’t know was that the Philippines is the only country in the region with a majority Christian (primarily Catholic) religion.

Media reported that 80% of the Philippine population are Catholics.  Since the Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world with over 100 million people, that is around 80 million Filipino Catholics!

The Philippines is among the 10 countries in the world with the largest number of Christians (ranked #5 after the USA, Brazil, Mexico and Russia).

Here are numbers from a Pew Research study:

Chart Source: PewResearch Religion and Public Life Project

Chart Source: Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project

Around 6 million people gathered to see and hear Pope Francis at Manila’s Luneta / Rizal Park last week.  Rizal Park (renamed after Philippine national hero Jose Rizal) is one of the largest urban park in Asia — but still, a crowd of 6 million?

Image from Vatican Website

Image from Vatican Website

Six million is roughly the entire population of Finland, or the entire U.S. state of Massachusetts converging for an event in one place.  Can you imagine being around that many faithful followers?

Many Filipinos are religious — and it is no wonder there are 80 million Catholics in the Philippines. For many, this faith sustains the spirit, and gives hope, despite living in conditions that most of us cannot imagine.

But the Catholic church — at least in the Philippines — is so powerful that over the last 15 years, they blocked and stood in the way of badly needed reproductive rights legislation.  Legislation that would have allowed family planning education and for poor families to access free birth control to help with overpopulation, and subsequent poverty problems.

See my post

Population Philippines – Too many mouths to feed

and the beautiful and poignant video “Above and Below” from Stephen Werc on the post “Living with the dead” to get an idea.

A reproductive health bill finally passed and is now law, but the church is continuing to lobby to overturn the new law.

The Pope visited the Philippines because there are more Catholics there than any other nation in Asia.  Prior to going to Manila, the Pope also visited Tacloban, the area hit by Super Typhoon, Haiyan in November of 2013. Typhoon Haiyan was the most devastating typhoon in Philippine history and one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.

I am not a Catholic — and don’t agree with their stance on birth control — but if I was, Pope Francis is someone I imagine I could relate to, as the leader of my church.

Family planning aside, Pope Francis seems like someone who truly cares about the plight of poor people on our planet.  I just don’t understand  why the Catholic church view family planning and reproductive health topics as separate from what contributes to world poverty.

You may have heard about the latest OXFAM report published this month, and that “1 in 9 people do not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25-a-day.

We cannot accept this, and I hope the power of faith, and those devoted to the core beliefs of Christianity or whatever religion guides them, will work to eradicate poverty and to address the unbelievable, and continuing inequality of what the rich have and what the poor do not, living in our modern, but fragile world.



  • The last time the leader of the Catholic church visited the Philippines was 20 years ago, when Pope St. John Paul II presided over World Youth Day in Manila.
  • Prior to arriving in the Philippines, Pope Francis was in the country of Sri Lanka to canonize the country’s first saint, Blessed Joseph Vaz who was known as the “Apostle of Ceylon.”  Sri Lanka has a population of 20 million, of which 7.4 % are Christians, with about 80% of Christians being Roman Catholic. Portuguese colonist brought Christianity to Sri Lanka in the early 16th century (more about Sri Lanka here).


OXFAM International’s article Richest 1% will own more than all the rest in 2016

For more on countries the pope will visit this year (including scheduled visits tot he USA and Africa), visit the National Catholic Register website here.

You may find the following post of interest as well, related to  the Philippines & human development topics:

International Literacy Day

Intl Literacy DayToday, Monday, September 8th is International Literacy Day.

Most of us take being able to read and literacy for granted…but worldwide, there are still 781 million adults who are illiterate (more than DOUBLE the population of the entire United States).

  “Literacy is a key lever of change and a practical tool of empowerment on each of the three main pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection.”  Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan

Here are the statistics from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

UNESCO illiteracy table

And from UNESCO on why literacy is important…

Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.

Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy…

A good quality basic education equips pupils with literacy skills for life and further learning; literate parents are more likely to send their children to school; literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities… continue reading

Also see Third Eye Mom’s blog post about READ Global  — and where I first viewed the beautiful video below on READ’s program in Bhutan…excerpt:

READ (Rural Education and Development) Global, a not-for-profit organization based in San Francisco, changed the future by opening their first READ Center, a community library and resource center that teaches people to read. Before READ began working in Bhutan, the country had only one public lending library in the entire country. Today, there are five READ centers reaching over 37,000 rural villagers creating a culture of reading and providing access to information and resources to help farmers, children and women’s empowerment…

The statistics regarding illiteracy are heartbreaking:

    • 17% of children in the developing world will not enroll in primary school
    • 39% of South Asia is illiterate.
    • 50% of women in South Asia are illiterate.
    • On average, kids only go through 4.7 years of schooling in South Asia (continue reading)

View this inspiring video on creating a culture of reading…

Great work READ Global!

Seeing the type of work that organizations like READ Global is doing, I believe we can further use technology to good use and bridge the gap and enormous disparity between modern libraries (see post from yesterday) and new libraries in developing countries —- and achieve goals of reducing illiteracy rates worldwide! What about you?

Related post:

Chameleons? Why Filipinos live & work in just about every country in the world

The words “why are Filipinos like chameleons” showed up on my blog’s search engine terms recently.

Chameleon definition

Mixed-Up-Chameleon by Eric CarleI did not write an article (until now) that connected the two words — Filipino and chameleon — but I do write often about Filipinos and the Philippines, wildlife, and about a particular chameleon, as in the Eric Carle book that I read to my grandchildren, The Mixed-Up Chameleon.

Initially I thought the search words were funny.  Chameleons — a special kind of lizard — are not native to the Philippines.  And then I wondered what information was sought…was this inquiry and the string of words derogatory?

And are Filipinos like chameleons? We Filipinos do tend to blend in, don’t we?   We all speak English (very well — and most with a clear American accent) and since English is one of the most popular language in the world, all that much easier to blend in, right?

Aside from language, is it also because most Filipinos are Christians?  A Pew Research demographics study on global religion found that Christians are the most evenly dispersed around the world and represent the largest percentage among the world’s religion  (2.2 billion or 32% of the world’s majority religion) .

20_religionCountryMap from Pew Research

Graphic on majority religions by country from Pew Research. The Philippine archipelago has the most Christians among countries in Southeast Asia,

I am pretty sure that Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world — around 10% of the total population, and 2.2 million contract or Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) — according to Philippine government data.

  • When I lived in Germany in the mid 1980’s, one of the first things our landlord, Klaus, wanted to do was to introduce me to the Filipina married to a local German, in our town of Dudeldorf.
  • When we first immigrated to the United States and living in Portland, Maine (of all places, right, and not exactly a hotbed for Filipinos in America) my mother quickly found another Filipina living nearby who befriended us.

So,  super chameleons?  Able to survive in any environment, no matter where on the globe?  Or rather, is it more because we don’t stick out?  The Philippines was a Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898, so most Filipinos have Spanish last names.  Is this another way we blend, since our names are not so unusual?

A friend theorized that because the Philippines is a nation of islands (over 7,000 in case you did not know), Filipinos are accustomed to traveling beyond their own island to the next…and the next, so what is another 5,000 more miles?  It’s in our DNA!  Hmmmn, interesting, and maybe!

Are Filipinos everywhere because they like adventure, because Filipinos like to travel? Is it by necessity, for survival? Because we must…as a sacrifice to contribute financially for the greater good of the family?

In 1980, the Philippines scored higher than China, Thailand and Brazil on the United Nations (UN) Human Development Indicators (HDI). The most recent UN HDI report show these three countries now have higher HDI scores than the Philippines.  And after World War II, the only other country in Asia richer than the Philippines was Japan.

So what happened?  Could it be because the Philippine population has more than DOUBLED in the last 3 decades?.

The Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world, and according to United Nations GDP / per capita income data, over 40% of Filipinos live on less than $2 per day.

These days, I think Filipinos are everywhere primarily because of over population and because the economy cannot support the population…so by necessity.

Every year, millions of Filipinos have no choice but to leave their homeland to find work elsewhere.  Many work in the shipping industries (notice that when cruise lines, or container ships are in the news, often, there are Filipino crew members?)

The Philippines export nurses all over the world.  And most recently, our teachers, too.

It is easier to understand Filipino communities in neighboring countries like Australia, New Zealand, especially Korea and Japan.  But Zambia?  ICELAND, The Isle of Mann?

Tropical Philippines web

Photo of banka (traditional Philippine outrigger boat) From lush green tropics to….Scandinavia?

And how is it that Filipinos manage to survive, and even thrive in countries with climates and cultures so different from their homes?  And do we — the chameleons —  blend in no matter where we are  because it’s safer if others like us, accept us, include us in their, and what then becomes OUR community?

In Sweden alone, there are over 20 Filipino communities! (see Fincomlas Sweden)

I admire Filipino characteristics — our friendly, caring nature, resilience, our sense of humor, and strong commitment to family  — and yes, maybe the chameleon qualities in a positive sense.  But I do hope that in my lifetime, the majority of Filipinos who live and work overseas will be because of their own choice to do so, and not because they have no other choice.

This post was inspired by a search query on my blog, and turned emotional when I thought of families torn apart and separated for many years due to the economic needs of Filipinos.  I’ll continue to explore more on this topic, and of course to celebrate and remember our food and culture.

In the meantime, if you are a Filipino in a faraway place, please share your experience, or your family’s experience.  Do you think Filipinos are like chameleons?  If so, is this positive or a negative?

Related posts:

Typhoon “Bopha” Philippines

Here is a link to an article by BULLIT MARQUEZ on Huff Post World and the latest on the devastation caused by Typhoon “Bopha” in the Philippines.

The death toll has climbed past 500, and more than 310,000 people have lost their homes.

Sadly, there are again allegations of illegal mining activities that may have contributed to the flash floods in the hardest hit areas (New Bataan)..

Excerpts from Bullit Marquez’s article:

…The economic losses began to emerge Friday after export banana growers reported that 14,000 hectares (34,600 acres) of export banana plantations, equal to 18 percent of the total in Mindanao, were destroyed.

The Philippines is the world’s third-largest banana producer and exporter, supplying well-known brands such as Dole, Chiquita and Del Monte mainly to Japan and also to South Korea, China, New Zealand and the Middle East.

AP Photo/Bullit Marquez — An almost completely destroyed banana plantation is seen Friday Dec. 7, 2012 following Tuesday’s typhoon named “Bopha” which hit Nabunturan township, Compostela Valley in southern Philippines.

…Government geological hazard maps show that the farming town of New Bataan, population 45,000, was built in 1968 in an area classified as “highly susceptible to flooding and landslides.”

...Most of the casualties were killed in the valley surrounded by steep hills and crisscrossed by rivers. Flooding was so widespread here that places people thought were safe, including two emergency shelters, became among the deadliest.

Poverty is widespread in the Philippines, and the disaster highlights the risks that some take in living in dangerous areas in the hope of feeding their families.

“It’s not only an environmental issue, it’s also a poverty issue,” Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said. “The people would say, `We are better off here. At least we have food to eat or money to buy food, even if it is risky.'”

View photos, videos and read the full article here...

Bhutan Happy: Gross National Happiness (GNH) as an indicator of progress

Have you heard about the country of Bhutan, and their focus on Gross National Happiness or G.N.H. over G.D.P. (Gross Domestic Products)?

Photo of Paro Dzong above — the centre of civil and religious authority in the Paro valley in western Bhutan. Photo by Jean-Marie Hullot via Wikepedia Commons

Bhutan — officially the Kingdom of Bhutan –is a land-locked country at the eastern end of the Himalayas, with a population of 738,267 (World Bank Data 2011).  It is bordered to the south, east and west by the country of India, and to the north by the country of China.

Map Source – U.S. Department of State

Bhutan is a small nation with big ideals.  For a population comparison, there are more residents in the U.S. city of San Francisco, California — population 812, 816 — than the entire country of Bhutan.

Late sunset view  — city of San Francisco, California.  Photo

Despite Bhutan’s small size, are they doing something right, and do they have ideas and ideals that we should all consider?

One has to be curious about a country, whose leaders consider the happiness of its people, as the guiding principle when making policies and decisions for its people.

Here is an example, from an Earth Island Journal article by John de Graaf and Laura Musikanski:

The Bhutanese conviction that happiness should take priority over economic growth has led to some perhaps radical decisions. When Bhutan’s government was deciding whether to join the World Trade Organization, it considered how such a step would impact the country’s happiness. Government officials determined that membership (which is coveted by many countries) would result in a net loss of well-being. The country decided not to join the WTO – at least for now.

And the idea is catching on!  More from the article, in the section, Happiness Is Catching

Since Bhutan’s pioneering effort to better measure well-being, the idea has spread around the world. In the United States, efforts to measure sustainability more holistically began in 1991, when Sustainable Seattle developed the world’s first regional indicators of well-being. Today, more than 350 community organizations in the United States alone have developed some kind of well-being or sustainability indicators. Local governments in Brazil, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom are also beginning to measure happiness.

In July, the idea that GDP is an insufficient gauge of progress reached the highest level of global governance when the United Nations General Assembly invited member countries to “pursue … additional measures that better capture the importance of the pursuit of happiness.”

Earlier this year, I posted this chart from the Economist, for my article Who’s Happy Now.  Post excerpt:

Here is a surprising chart on happiness and GDP, from the Economist.

Well, actually, it may not be that surprising.  Happiness — and most of us know this instinctively anyway — is not related to wealth.  Poor and middle-income countries were the happiest!

The top 3 on the chart are among the most populated countries in the world (Indonesia ranks #4, India #2 and Brazil is #5 in world population).  Indonesia and India also rank among the poorest countries in the world, based on per capita income.

Chart Source: The Economist. DESPITE the economic gloom, the world is happier than it was before the financial crisis set in (according to a recent poll from Ipsos which surveyed 19,000 adults in 24 countries). 77% of respondents describe themselves as “happy”, three percentage points higher than in 2007. Those countries who report themselves as being the happiest tend to be in poor and middle-income countries, while the gloomiest are in rich countries (the figures for Italy and Spain were 13% and 11%).

For more on this topic, please read The Pursuit of Happiness:  A New Measure of Societal Progress Can Help Save the Planet – and Us, an article by John deGraaf and Laura Musikanski, from Earth Island Journal (News of the World Environment).  Excerpt:

Growing Backwards

In the past 30 years, our Gross Domestic Product has doubled. During that same time, some other important figures have also increased: the number of threatened species, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, the rates of diabetes and heart disease.

Meanwhile, almost all the income gained from the GDP growth went to the richest one percent of Americans, creating the widest income gap in the industrial world.

Many of us instinctively feel that disconnect between a growing economy and decreasing quality of life. Some statistics tell us we’re not alone in that feeling. According to polls taken by the National Opinion Research Center, about one-third of Americans described themselves as “very happy” in the 1950s; the percentage remains the same today. More troubling is that clinical depression is three to ten times more common today than two generations ago…

…Yes, we have more stuff than we did 30 years ago, but we are working longer hours than we did then and carry frightening levels of personal debt…

…In his Italian bestseller, Manifesto for Happiness, University of Siena economist Stefano Bartolini compares happiness data around the world and concludes that America is “the example not to follow.”

Bartolini says Americans are caught in a vicious cycle. Our consumption habits demand more debt and longer work hours, reducing our social connections, a central foundation of happiness.

To compensate for the feelings of loneliness, we then buy more stuff, seeking friendship through products. This consumption treadmill is reflected in faster economic growth than in Europe, but it exacerbates Americans’ social disconnection and the deterioration of our environmental commons.

Bartolini argues that the US’s rapid economic growth is more a matter of the inefficiency of the American economy in meeting our actual needs than it is an indicator of dynamism. In short, GDP obscures more than it reveals. The numbers give us a sense that we are wealthy; in fact, we are impoverished when it comes to the things we value most.  Read the complete article, here…

Related links:

The Centre for Bhutan Studies – Gross National Happiness

The Local Nomad: It’s a Costco Life (or how possessions can crush you)

Lola Jane’s: On the “burden of civilization’s excess”…

Some good news on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for 2015

Back in the year 2000, 189 nations promised to free people from extreme poverty and other deprivations.  This pledge  is the basis for the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG) — a blueprint agreed to by the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions — with a target for the year 2015.

The Eight Millennium Development Goals for 2015 are:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

Seaside Market, Philippines – photo

With less than 3 years left until the end of 2015, which of these goals have been achieved?

The good news…a report launched earlier this month by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indicated that important targets on poverty, slums and water have been met three years ahead of 2015.

As far as the remaining goals…here are highlights from the United Nations Development Programme’s article: With three MDG targets achieved, global partnership for development is key to 2015 success

  • Meeting the remaining targets, while challenging, is possible ─ but only if Governments do not waiver from their commitments made over a decade ago.
  • In his foreword to the 2012 MDG Report, Mr. Ban says “The current economic crises besetting much of the developed world must not be allowed to decelerate or reverse the progress that has been made.  Let us build on the successes we have achieved so far, and let us not relent until all the MDGs have been attained”.

There is progress…

The MDG Report says that, for the first time since poverty trends began to be monitored, both the number of people living in extreme poverty and the poverty rates have fallen in every developing region—including sub-Saharan Africa, where rates are highest.

Preliminary estimates indicate that in 2010, the share of people living on less than a $1.25 a day dropped to less than half of its 1990 value. Essentially, this means that the MDG first target—cutting the extreme poverty rate to half its 1990 level—has been achieved at the global level, well ahead of 2015. 

The MDG Report also notes another success: reaching the target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of drinking water by 2010. The proportion of people using improved water sources rose from 76 per cent in 1990 to 89 per cent in 2010, translating to more than two billion people currently with access to improved sources such as piped supplies or protected wells.

And the share of urban residents in the developing world living in slums has declined from 39 per cent in 2000 to 33 per cent in 2012.  More than 200 million have gained access to either improved water sources, improved sanitation facilities, or durable or less crowded housing. This achievement exceeds the target of significantly improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, also ahead of a 2020 deadline.

The MDG Report 2012 also points out that the world has achieved another milestone: parity in primary education between girls and boys. Driven by national and international efforts, many more of the world’s children are enrolled in school at the primary level, especially since 2000. Girls have benefited the most. There were 97 girls enrolled per 100 boys in 2010—up from 91 girls per 100 boys in 1999.

The report says that enrollment rates of primary school age children have increased markedly in sub-Saharan Africa, from 58 to 76 per cent between 1999 and 2010. Many countries in the region have succeeded in reducing their relatively high out-of-school rates even as their primary school age populations were growing.

At the end of 2010, 6.5 million people in developing regions were receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV or AIDS, constituting the largest one-year increase ever. Since December 2009, more than 1.4 million people were being treated.

“These results”, said Mr. Ban “represent a tremendous reduction in human suffering and are a clear validation of the approach embodied in the MDGs. 

But, they are not a reason to relax.  Projections indicate that in 2015 more than 600 million people worldwide will still lack access to safe drinking water, almost one billion will be living on an income of less than $1.25 per day, mothers will continue to die needlessly in childbirth, and children will suffer and die from preventable diseases. 

Hunger remains a global challenge, and ensuring that all children are able to complete primary education remains a fundamental, but unfulfilled, target that has an impact on all the other goals. Lack of safe sanitation is hampering progress in health and nutrition … and greenhouse gas emissions continue to pose a major threat to people and ecosystems”.   MORE, here…

Related Links and Reports on Millennium Development Goals

Lola Jane’s post – GDP Poor Nations Per Capita Income

Millennium Development Goals Indicators – Official website for the United Nation’s Millennium Indicators.  Click here for country specific data, the Philippines, etc.

The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012

Summary: Three important targets on poverty, slums and water have been met three years ahead of 2015, says this year’s Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Meeting the remaining targets, while challenging, is possible ─ but only if Governments do not waiver from their commitments made over a decade ago.  Click here to view this report.

REPORT: What will it take to achieve the Millennium Development Goals?  From the United Nations Development Programme, an international assessment, based on a review of 50 country studies.

Click here to view report in PDF Format



Report: Unlocking Progress: MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) lessons from pilot countries

Reviews of MDG progress in various countries have revealed many successes, but also the need for urgent, focused action. In the absence of enhanced efforts, many countries risk missing one or more of the targets by the deadline.This report shares the lessons from 10 pilot countries on efforts taken toward meeting the 2015 MDG deadline.  Click here to view report in PDF format.

Interview with David Suzuki: Was Rio+20 a big failure?

Rio+20 is the short name for the United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development, which took place on June 20 – 22, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The +20 signifies twenty years since the 1992 Earth summit, also held in Rio de Janeiro.

The UN brought together governments, international institutions and major groups to “agree” on measures to reduce poverty and promote jobs, clean energy, and a more sustainable and fair use of resources.

This is a follow-up to the previous post, and   Severn Cullis-Suzuki’s historic 1992 United Nations speech.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki is the daughter of David Suzuki, a Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist.

David Suzuki is host of the long-running CBC program, “The Nature of Things,” seen in more than 40 countries. He co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990, which focuses on sustainable ecology. In 2009, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award. His latest book is called, “Everything Under the Sun: Toward a Brighter Future on a Small Blue Planet.”

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed David Suzuki near the conclusion of  the Rio+20 conference.  Below is video of the interview, covering the  “Green Economy” and why the planet’s survival requires undoing its economic model.  Introduction:

As the Rio+20 Earth Summit — the largest U.N. conference ever — ends in disappointment, we’re joined by the leading Canadian scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki. As host of the long-running CBC program, “The Nature of Things,” seen in more than 40 countries, Suzuki has helped educate millions about the rich biodiversity of the planet and the threats it faces from human-driven global warming. Suzuki joins us from the summit in Rio de Janeiro to talk about the climate crisis, the student protests in Quebec, his childhood growing up in an internment camp, and his daughter Severn’s historic speech at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 when she was 12 years-old.

“If we don’t see that we are utterly embedded in the natural world and dependent on Mother Nature for our very well-being and survival … then our priorities will continue to be driven by man-made constructs like national borders, economies, corporations, markets,” Suzuki says. “Those are all human created things. They shouldn’t dominate the way we live. It should be the biosphere, and the leaders in that should be indigenous people who still have that sense that the earth is truly our mother, that it gives birth to us. You don’t treat your mother the way we treat the planet or the biosphere today.”

It is clear that a shift in how we think about our relationship with our planet needs to happen now, otherwise, just as meetings like the Rio+20, we are doomed to fail.

As David Suzuki points out, we are part of, and depend on nature.  Without clean air, without clean water, and biodiversity to sustain us….how are we going to survive?

If we continue to think and believe we are separate from — instead of a part of, and responsible for the planet’s health —  then indeed, we are looking at our very own extinction.   Let’s take a different path!

Related Links:

David Suzuki FoundationWe work with government, business and individuals to conserve our environment by providing science-based research, education and policy work, and acting as a catalyst for the change that today’s situation demands.

Lola Jane’s on the Environment tipping point – are we living in an age of irresponsibility?  Post on the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) recently published 5th Global Environment Outlook – a 525 page report analyzing the world’s environmental situation.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki Revisits Historic ’92 Speech, Fights for Next Generation’s Survival

From Democracy Now —  a daily, independent global news hour, with Amy Goodman & Juan González:

In 1992, 12-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki became known as “the girl who silenced the world for six minutes” after she addressed delegates in Rio de Janeiro during the summit’s plenary session. We air Cullis-Suzuki’s historic address and speak to her from the Rio+20 summit, which she comes back to now as a veteran international environmental campaigner and mother of two. “Twenty years later, the world is still talking about a speech, a six-minute speech that a 12-year-old gave to world leaders,” Cullis-Suzuki says. “Why? It is because the world is hungry to hear the truth, and it is nowhere articulated as well as from the mouths of those with everything at stake, which is youth.”

“I’m only a child, yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong—in fact, 30 million species strong. And borders and governments will never change that. I’m only a child, yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.  In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid of telling the world how I feel… click here to view the video transcript.

Living with the dead

Earlier this year, my friend sent this link of a poignant video from London-based Stefan Werc, about Filipinos who live among the dead at the Navotas cemetery.

It is interesting to see all the religious objects in the shacks.  Religion and faith may be what sustains one’s spirit, and to have hope, despite living in these conditions.  But sadly, religion — at least in the Philippines —  is also what stands in the way of reproductive rights legislation…needed to help solve overpopulation, and subsequent poverty issues.

How bleak and sad do living conditions have to get?  Would the fact that people live in cemeteries confirm we have huge problems in the Philippines with poverty and overpopulation?

Will churches house, feed, and take care of these people?  It is obvious that they cannot.  I implore leaders to have compassion and stop blocking family planning initiatives, and let those who need it most — the poor — have access to family planning programs.

Above and Below from Stefan Werc on Vimeo.

See also, related articles:

Lola Jane’s A Demographic Riddle: Do women bear fewer children because a country is prosperous, or does a country’s economy grow when women have fewer children?

Lola Jane’s International Human Development Indicators (HDI) United Nations Report and where the Philippines stands in human development between 1980 to 2011 (compared to countries like Brazil, Thailand and Egypt).

The Filipino Scribe – Blogger and freelance writer Mark Pere Madrona’s blog post on the Philippines’ Reproductive Health(RH) bill:  Passing RH bill is our priority, PH tells UN rights body

More on the environment tipping point

More on the environment tipping point, from

Now that the zombie apocalypse appears to have calmed down, we have a different end-of-the-world situation to deal with. A study published in the science journal Nature this week finds that human activity is pushing Earth toward a planetary shift wherein “widespread social unrest, economic instability and loss of human life could result.”

Graph of land use as a quantification of a potential planetary state shift Anthony Barnosky, et al./Nature, via Mother Jones

According to paleoecologist Anthony Barnosky and his 21 co-authors, the human population is ecologically influencial enough to transform the planet into a state heretofore unknown in human experience. The study draws from more than 100 scientific papersmore

Environment tipping point…are we living in an age of irresponsibility?

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently published their 5th Global Environment Outlook – a 525 page report analyzing the world’s environmental situation.

And… it is no surprise that the situation does not look good.  Excerpt from the report by Jenny Barchfield (AP) via SFGate, UN report warns environment at tipping point:

…In a 525-page report on the health of the planet, the agency paints a grim picture: The melting of the polar ice caps, desertification in Africa, deforestation of tropical jungles, spiraling use of chemicals and the emptying out of the world’s seas are just some of myriad environmental catastrophes posing a threat to life as we know it.

“As human pressures on the earth … accelerate, several critical global, regional and local thresholds are close or have been exceeded,” the report says. “Once these have been passed, abrupt and possibly irreversible changes to the life-support functions of the planet are likely to occur, with significant adverse implications for human well-being.”

Such adverse implications include rising sea levels, increased frequency and severity of floods and droughts, and the collapse of fisheries, said the report, which compiles the work of the past three years by a team of 300 researchers.

The bad news doesn’t end there. The report says about 20 percent of vertebrate species are under threat of extinction, coral reefs have declined by 38 percent since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions could double over the next 50 years, and 90 percent of water and fish samples from aquatic environments are contaminated by pesticides.  

I don’t know about other print newspapers, but ours (The Monterey County Herald) had this news on Page 7, on June 7, 2012.

If our home —  the beautiful planet, Earth — is “being pushed towards their biophysical limits”, then this news deserves more attention.

If indeed, catastrophic changes are looming, then should this news be on the FRONT PAGE?

Our home is on the verge of major disaster, and we put the news on page 7???

We do not want to think about this, so do we just ignore this information…to our own peril?

It’s time to wake up everyone.  This is the collective problem of all inhabitants of our fragile planet!

Is it possible to CHANGE the health of our planet and to stop and reverse these distressing environmental trends?

From UNEP executive director Achim Steiner:  “This is an indictment.  We live in an age of irresponsibility that is also testified and documented in this report.

“In 1992 (when the first of the agency’s five reports was released) we talked about the future that was likely to occur. This report 20 years later speaks to the fact that a number of the things that we talked about in the future tense in 1992 have arrived,” Steiner said. “Once the tipping point occurs, you don’t wake up the next morning and say, `This is terrible, can we change it?’ That is the whole essence of these thresholds. We are condemning people to not having the choice anymore.”

Steiner called for immediate action to prevent continued environmental degradation, with its ever-worsening consequences.

“Change is possible,” he said, adding that the report includes an analysis of a host of environmental preservation projects that have worked. “Given what we know, we can move in another direction.”

Here is the newspaper article about the UN report, on page 7 of our  Monterey County Herald.

Are you thinking what I am thinking…is this all there is?  Come on, Monterey Herald!

Does the placement of this article speak to how we all feel about the environmental problems we collectively face?  To bury the already tiny mention, in the middle of the newspaper?

If you care at all about the state of the world we leave behind for our children and grandchildren, then we have no choice but to take responsibility for the problems we have caused, and act now…before we reach the tipping point.

Do you think there should be more coverage about this report?  Who is responsible for addressing these  environmental threats?

International Women’s Day 2012

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. Some countries celebrate IWD as a national holiday, including China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria.

Here in the U.S., the month of March is designated as Women’s History Month.

To learn more about International Women’s Day — which celebrated its 100th year in 2011 — click here to visit the website,

Locally, the Monterey Bay Chapter of the United Nations Association is hosting an International Women’s Day potluck dinner on Friday, March 9th.  Details below and on the UNA Monterey Bay Chapter website.

Topic is “What would the world be like with more women leaders?”

Location: Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula, 490 Aguajito Road, Carmel, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm

The speaker is Ms. Rebecca Costa – Author of “The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction”

Everyone is encouraged to bring an international dish to share, and to wear international or ethnic clothing.  Admission is free!

Click on here to join the BIG INEQUALITY DEBATE

Most of us have not heard of International Women’s Day….and may ask, is this really necessary?

Yes it is!

With the recent tirade by Rush Limbaugh (why are people listening to this VILE person?) after law student Sandra Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on contraception….with the violence and atrocities against women that we continue to hear about in war-torn areas of Africa…..and the inequities that women STILL endure in many parts of the world…yes, this attention is necessary.

And though it is now 2012, unfortunately, there is still much work and understanding needed to make women truly equal to men, in our modern world.

International Human Development Indicators (HDI)

I am continuing to work on a post about the Philippines and the topic of development — and ways that it is measured — and found a detailed report from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Within this report are International Human Development Indicators (HDI).  It measures average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development:

        • a long and healthy life
        • knowledge
        • and a decent standard of living

The most recent HDI is a composite index that covers the period from 1980 to 2011.  It is included in the 2011 issue of the UNDP’s Human Development Report.

The goal of the report is to provide information to help advance human development. The full report can be ordered from the UNDP website or downloaded for free in 18 languages.

The data collected is comprehensive and complicated, and the UNDP has a Frequenty Asked Questions (FAQ) page about the report, which can be accessed here.  Also, background on how they come up with the composite index and the concept of human development is available on the UNDP’s Indices & Data page.

There are a total of 187 countries tracked by the UNDP for this report.  Some countries did not have available data and are not included — e.g. North Korea, Somalia, Monaco.

For this post, I list the top 20 countries, the Philippines and its neighboring countries, as well as countries that might be of interest due to population, or connections for Filipinos (countries in the Middle East where there are large numbers of overseas Filipino workers).

Norway is the top country in this ranking, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is at the bottom.  Click here if you want to see the full report (all 187 countries).   You can also click on the individual country below for further information.

The countries are categorized as:

  • Very high human development (scores of 0.889 in 2011- the USA is in this category)
  • High human development (scores of 0.741in 2011)
  • Medium human development (0.630 in 2011 – the Philippines is in this category)
  • Low human development (0.456 in 2011)

HDI Rank Country     The number columns represent from left to right, the years starting from 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and last column are numbers from  2011.

1 Norway 0.796 0.819 0.844 0.876 0.913 0.938 0.940 0.942 0.941 0.941 0.941 0.943
2 Australia 0.850 0.859 0.873 0.889 0.906 0.918 0.920 0.922 0.924 0.926 0.927 0.929
3 Netherlands 0.792 0.806 0.835 0.866 0.882 0.890 0.897 0.902 0.904 0.905 0.909 0.910
4 United States 0.837 0.853 0.870 0.883 0.897 0.902 0.904 0.905 0.907 0.906 0.908 0.910
5 New Zealand 0.800 0.812 0.828 0.861 0.878 0.899 0.901 0.903 0.904 0.906 0.908 0.908
6 Canada 0.817 0.834 0.857 0.870 0.879 0.892 0.897 0.900 0.903 0.903 0.907 0.908
7 Ireland 0.735 0.754 0.782 0.813 0.869 0.898 0.904 0.909 0.909 0.905 0.907 0.908
8 Liechtenstein .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 0.904 0.905
9 Germany 0.730 0.745 0.795 0.835 0.864 0.895 0.898 0.901 0.902 0.900 0.903 0.905
10 Sweden 0.785 0.796 0.816 0.855 0.894 0.896 0.898 0.899 0.900 0.898 0.901 0.904
11 Switzerland 0.810 0.817 0.833 0.846 0.873 0.890 0.893 0.893 0.892 0.899 0.901 0.903
12 Japan 0.778 0.803 0.827 0.850 0.868 0.886 0.891 0.894 0.896 0.895 0.899 0.901
13 Hong Kong, China (SAR) 0.708 0.745 0.786 0.810 0.824 0.850 0.857 0.870 0.885 0.888 0.894 0.898
14 Iceland 0.762 0.782 0.807 0.830 0.863 0.893 0.895 0.899 0.895 0.897 0.896 0.898
15 Korea (Republic of) 0.634 0.690 0.742 0.793 0.830 0.866 0.873 0.881 0.886 0.889 0.894 0.897
16 Denmark 0.783 0.802 0.809 0.833 0.861 0.885 0.887 0.890 0.891 0.891 0.893 0.895
17 Israel 0.763 0.785 0.802 0.823 0.856 0.874 0.877 0.882 0.882 0.884 0.886 0.888
18 Belgium 0.757 0.777 0.811 0.854 0.876 0.873 0.877 0.880 0.882 0.883 0.885 0.886
19 Austria 0.740 0.762 0.790 0.814 0.839 0.860 0.866 0.870 0.876 0.879 0.883 0.885
20 France 0.722 0.742 0.777 0.819 0.846 0.869 0.873 0.877 0.879 0.880 0.883 0.884
23 Spain  0.691 0.717 0.749 0.801 0.839 0.857 0.862 0.866 0.871 0.874 0.876 0.878
24 Italy 0.717 0.735 0.764 0.795 0.825 0.861 0.866 0.869 0.871 0.870 0.873 0.874
26 Singapore .. .. .. .. 0.801 0.835 0.843 0.850 0.855 0.856 0.864 0.866
28 United Kingdom 0.744 0.759 0.778 0.816 0.833 0.855 0.853 0.856 0.860 0.860 0.862 0.863
30 United Arab Emirates 0.629 0.652 0.690 0.724 0.753 0.807 0.818 0.827 0.835 0.841 0.845 0.846
33 Brunei Darussalam 0.750 0.760 0.784 0.807 0.818 0.830 0.834 0.835 0.834 0.835 0.837 0.838
37 Qatar  0.703 0.728 0.743 0.760 0.784 0.818 0.816 0.825 0.825 0.818 0.825 0.831
42 Bahrain 0.651 0.700 0.721 0.750 0.773 0.795 0.799 0.804 0.806 0.805 0.805 0.806
56 Saudi Arabia 0.651 0.668 0.693 0.710 0.726 0.746 0.751 0.755 0.760 0.763 0.767 0.770
57 Mexico 0.593 0.629 0.649 0.674 0.718 0.741 0.748 0.755 0.761 0.762 0.767 0.770
61 Malaysia 0.559 0.600 0.631 0.674 0.705 0.738 0.742 0.746 0.750 0.752 0.758 0.761
63 Kuwait 0.688 0.715 0.712 0.737 0.754 0.752 0.755 0.756 0.757 0.757 0.758 0.760
64 Libyan Arab Jamahiriya .. .. .. .. .. 0.741 0.748 0.755 0.759 0.763 0.770 0.760
84 Brazil 0.549 0.575 0.600 0.634 0.665 0.692 0.695 0.700 0.705 0.708 0.715 0.718
95 Jordan 0.541 0.577 0.591 0.623 0.646 0.673 0.678 0.685 0.692 0.694 0.697 0.698
101 China 0.404 0.448 0.490 0.541 0.588 0.633 0.644 0.656 0.665 0.674 0.682 0.687
103 Thailand  0.486 0.528 0.566 0.603 0.626 0.656 0.661 0.670 0.672 0.673 0.680 0.682
112 Philippines 0.550 0.552 0.571 0.586 0.602 0.622 0.624 0.630 0.635 0.636 0.641 0.644
113 Egypt 0.406 0.461 0.497 0.539 0.585 0.611 0.618 0.626 0.633 0.638 0.644 0.644
124 Indonesia  0.423 0.460 0.481 0.527 0.543 0.572 0.579 0.591 0.598 0.607 0.613 0.617
128 Viet Nam .. .. 0.435 0.486 0.528 0.561 0.568 0.575 0.580 0.584 0.590 0.593
134 India 0.344 0.380 0.410 0.437 0.461 0.504 0.512 0.523 0.527 0.535 0.542 0.547
187 Congo (Democratic Republic of the) 0.282 0.289 0.289 0.254 0.224 0.260 0.266 0.271 0.270 0.277 0.282 0.286

My notes:

It is not surprising to see countries like Norway,  the USA and Canada among the Top 10.  What did surprise me is to see that the Oceana countries —  Australia and New Zealand —  are also in the Top 10.

Japan, South Korea and  Hong Kong are the only Asian countries in the top 20 ranking.

In 1980, HDI scores for the Philippines were higher than Brazil, Thailand and Egypt

  • Brazil’s 1980 HDI number was 0.549 (Brazil is the 5th most populous country in the world, with the largest catholic population — 68% of the population or about 122 million)
  • Thailand was at 0.486
  • Egypt was at 0.406
  • The Philippines was 0.550

For the year 2011,

  • Brazil’s HDI number went from 0.549 to 0.718 and they are now ranked #84 out of 187 countries
  • Thailand’s number went from 0.486 to 0.682 and jumped to a ranking of #103
  • Egypt jumped from a low of 0.406 to 0.644 and now rank #113
  • The Philippines number went from 0.550 to 0.644  and now rank #112

What has happened over the last 30 years to reflect these numbers?  What has changed in Brazil…in Thailand?

Have you heard about this measurement system on the topic of human development — and what do you think about this ranking data?

Why does the Philippines have to import rice to feed its people?

Articled updated on September 22, 2014 with recent USDA data on world rice trade.

Rice photo by

A big portion of the earth’s population survives on rice.

Years ago, someone told me that the Philippines does not produce enough rice to feed its people.  I wondered if this was still true, did some research, and indeed, this remains true today.

It is interesting that the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is located in the Philippines.  Sixty percent of the rice grown on the planet today come from seeds developed through IRRI.  One would think that as this respected research organization is in the Philippines, the Philippines would eventually produce enough rice to feed its people.

But it is a complex issue, and in fact, the Philippines is currently the largest importer of rice in the world, importing around 1.8 million tons of rice in 2008 (Source: United States Department of Agriculture).

According to the IRRI, there are three main factors which explain why the Philippines imports rice:

  • Land area: The Philippines has around 300,000 square kilometers, of which around 43,000 square kilometers of harvested area are used for rice production.
    As most of the country is very mountainous and consists of many small islands, suitable land is limited to expand rice production into without affecting wetlands, forests, or areas producing other crops. Urban areas also continue to expand rapidly.
  • Population growth: The Philippine population is estimated at 97 million (IRRI Data and UN Data from 2010 lists 93.6 million). Its annual growth rate of around 2% – among the world’s highest – means that just to keep pace with growing demand the country would have to increase rice production and yield at rates rarely seen in history.
  • Infrastructure: Irrigation infrastructure is not used and maintained as efficiently as it could be, thus reducing productivity potential. Transport infrastructure, particularly good-quality roads, is lacking in the Philippines, which affects the transport of rice and hinders the rice trade.

The IRRI continues work to help Filipino farmers raise rice harvest yields, which at this time, is more than Indian or Thailand rice fields, but still under those produced by Chinese and Vietnamese rice farmers.

Almost Ready to Harvest, Rice Field in the Philippines.  Photo

As of 2014, the Philippines still import rice, and it has actually increased as of September, 2014, per chart below from the US Department of Agriculture data (USDA).

Note: 1,600 Thousand Metric Tons — the amount listed for 2014 / 2015 on the table below — equal 3,527,360 lbs.  The average Filipino eats about 271 lbs of rice per year (123 kg), among the highest in the world, according to the IRRI.

World Rice Trade by Thousand Metric Tons

Philippines still import rice as of Sept 2014

More rice related articles are under “Rice, Rice & More Rice” category under the parent topic, The Philippines.

And if you like this post and want to see more Philippine related post from, please subscribe to Lola Jane’s blog (input form on home page) or click here… 

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So… were you surprised that the Philippines imports a lot rice, despite seeing rice fields pretty much WHEREVER you travel in the Philippines?

Please comment…I would like to know what you think.